Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of the first substantial speech I have the opportunity to make in this House, I would like first of all to greet all the constituents of the riding of Châteauguay. Nestled by the borders of Quebec, Ontario and the United States, this part of the area called Montérégie is located southwest of Montreal. Previously made up of rural towns and villages, this riding has become over the years one of the suburbs of the largest French metropolis in North America.
In the west of the riding lies the city of Châteauguay with a population of about 40,000 people who for the most part work on the island of Montreal.
In the east, there is a group of towns that have become industrial centres. In the south, some other towns were able to save farmlands from urban development. The northern part of the riding is taken up by the Mohawk reserve.
In the riding of Châteauguay, we know what federal presence means. It means the St. Lawrence Seaway and, through it, the demise of the port of Montreal; it means the development of Sarnia, in Ontario, through the transfer of the petrochemical industry from the east end of Montreal; it means the Kahnawake reserve and the closing of the Mercier bridge during the Indian crisis in the summer of 1990. It also meant war measures in 1970 and conscription for the two world wars, and I could go on.
For many years, the federal presence has meant only trouble, worry, indecisiveness, lack of determination and, most of all, poor management of public funds. That is why so many Quebecers are increasingly looking at sovereignty for Quebec.
At a time when the deficit is reaching proportions beyond the comprehension of most people, all of us here in this House are challenged to resolve this monstrous problem. Citizens have lost confidence in the capacity of governments to control expenditures. We do not have any grace period to regain that confidence. We must act now and act effectively. From now on we will have to live within our means and our capacity to pay.
Yesterday the Bloc Quebecois caucus had the opportunity to meet the Conseil du patronat du Québec. Established in 1969, this group of employers has 547 members, 430 of which are corporations or associations actively involved in developing Quebec economy. That most influential organization told us about its concerns with regard to public spending, among other things.
Where does the Bloc Quebecois stand? Despite the heavier tax burden we experienced in the last few years, it seems that federal expenditures always exceed revenues by over $35 billion each year. It does not seem possible to increase the tax burden any further.
We should therefore have a look at expenditures and tax loopholes. In this regard, the Bloc Quebecois will support every proposal to better manage our public expenditures and lower the annual deficit. The Bloc Quebecois appeals once more to this government to scrutinize all budgetary items.
First of all, we should eliminate duplication, consolidate administrative units and bring about the decentralization of powers. Second, we should implement the corrective measures recommended each year by the Auditor General, whose reports always point out situations where billions of dollars of public money are wasted both in program spending and tax expenditures. Take for example foreign investments by corporations which are always mentioned since 1986.
We should then reexamine and eventually abolish special privileges granted to the wealthy through family trusts, on which the Department of Finance will not give any information whatsoever. Fourth, we should hand over to Quebec jurisdiction over manpower and training. We should also cut 25 per cent of the defence budget. That could save nearly $3 billion without putting the security of Canada or Quebec in jeopardy.
The Conseil du patronat du Québec supports the Bloc Quebecois position that duplication should be eliminated. The Conseil also agrees with the Bloc Quebecois that the whole field of manpower training should be transferred to Quebec.
In my capacity as the official opposition critic for the Department of Veterans Affairs, I will endorse the Bloc Quebecois position concerning that department and its mandate. The total estimated budget of that department for the fiscal year 1993-94 alone stands at $2.1 billion. Of this amount, close to $700 million is earmarked for health care, a third of all spending.
According to the 1993-94 estimates for Veterans Affairs Canada, health care claims have been on an unprecedented rise in the last few years. The reason for this is that veterans are getting much older, triggering higher administrative and financial costs.
These trends confirm that this department is taking more and more hospital space. In the last four years, health care costs went up in excess of 59 per cent. A third of the budget is spent on services already provided by Health and Welfare Canada and the Quebec department of health and social services. Hospital care is one of the areas where overlapping of government services is most frequent. We must ask ourselves if this duplication is really necessary or if the provinces could not simply take over hospitals which are now managed by the federal government.
What makes these services so different from those provided by provincial hospitals? What sets veterans apart from the rest of the population? We are proposing a solution to reduce public spending without diminishing the quality and the amount of services. It is the kind of solution that must be looked at, and that the Bloc strongly advocates because the situation calls for it.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, the government cannot increase taxes, directly or indirectly. It must, however, do everything it can to reduce the annual deficit. Consequently, there is no other choice. It must cut public spending, but in an intelligent way so as to not hit the needy, the poor, and even all those in the middle class who work so hard to earn a living in this country.
I repeat that the government has to eliminate duplication of services and waste public funds. This is why so many Quebecers see in Quebec's sovereignty the only solution which will help save Canada from bankruptcy.